Potsdam town taxpayers might have to help pay costs if village dissolved
Sunday, September 25, 2011 - 6:03 pm

POTSDAM – If the Village is dissolved, all Town property owners may have to help pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in police, airport, code enforcement and other government services used by Potsdam’s major employers.

Currently, only Village property owners shoulder those costs, even though hundreds of town residents are employed by Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Clarkson University or SUNY Potsdam, or by businesses that exist because of those institutions.

The Village collects nearly $2.6 million each year in property taxes, but because they are tax-exempt, CPH and SUNY Potsdam pay nothing and Clarkson pays about $30,000 in lieu of taxes, according to Village Administrator David Fenton.

Yet all the institutions call on the police department many times a month for security and other issues. The hospital takes advantage of Damon Field Airport, as does another major Potsdam employer, UPS. Clarkson and CPH rely on the village code enforcement office for construction and renovation projects. And those responsible for recruitment at the “big three” institutions say they are more successful because the village enforces regulations requiring grass to be cut and prohibiting cars from parking on front laws. That makes the community appear more appealing to potential students, faculty, doctors and staff, they say.

The “big three” institutions do pay in some small ways, however:

• Just as village residents are billed separately for water, sewer and trash collection, so too are the colleges and hospital; expenses for those operations are kept separate and are not included in the village’s general budget.

• All three institutions are contributing $7,000 yearly for five years for the purchase of the new ladder truck for the fire department; both the village and town contributed $300,000 towards the cost of the truck; village taxpayers are contributing $290,150 annual fire driver salaries and other department expenses.

• All village property owners, including the colleges and hospital, pay a two percent tax utility bill tax which totals $140,000 in revenue to the village each year. Since the Gross Utilities Receipts Tax only applies to villages and cities, the revenue will be lost if the village dissolves; utility users in the village would then experience a 2 percent drop in their utility bills.

• As a state institution, SUNY Potsdam does not rely on local building inspectors for construction and renovation projects. However, Clarkson and CPH do use the village building inspector’s services for construction projects but also pay building permit fees.